The following is a description of some the best dive sites in St. Lucia, several of which are located in the Soufriere Marine Management Area (SMMA) and the adjacent Canaries/Anse la Raye Area (CAMMA) on the western shores of St. Lucia. There are several others to the north of the island and elsewhere, but, this small sample should whet the appetites of visiting divers.
Take a few short steps across the warm volcanic sand of the Anse Chastanet beach and one will find themselves at this spectacular reef. This very popular reef has three distinct areas:
SHALLOW: There is a plateau area with depths of 5-25 feet with many brightly colored sponges and soft corals, as well as large brain corals and boulder corals. Goatfish, parrotfish, chromis and wrasse are found all over the shallow reef, and barracudas are also often observed cruising through the water column. At the base of the cliff there is a large cavern with resident frogfish.
MEDIUM: The reef drops off steeply from 20 to over 140 feet in depth. It forms a solid wall of mixed corals and other marine species. Most of the dives offered by various dive operators are at mid-range depth (between 50-60 feet), allowing divers to see the full range of the reef from the sparkling water surface to the deep reef. This portion of the reef is often visited by many schooling fish, and has a wide diversity of marine life, including various corals, sponges, crabs, lobsters, moray eels, and much more. Deep-water lace coral is also found in this area.
DEEP: In the deeper part of the reef, at about 100 feet, other corals give way to plate coral, with layer upon layer of delicate porcelain-like growths stacked one on top of the other. This area is well worth the visit.
Located to the north-west of St. Lucia, there is a shallow wall at Anse La Raye, and below this is a slope covered in huge boulders, making way for interesting terrain. The shallow areas have lots of brightly colored fire coral, while in the deeper end there are iridescent purple vase sponges, barrel sponges, and soft coral. There is a lot of fish life on this dive – look out particularly for jacks, bermuda-chub and spotted-drums.
Perhaps we should say, dive in and go with the flow because ‘Barrel of Beef’ is one of the local names for an outcropping of rock which is surrounded by numerous coral reefs set amid swirling currents that make up one of the most popular dive sites in the north of St. Lucia.
Listed on the maps as Fourroura Rock, the outcropping sits roughly a half-mile off Reduit Beach. The feature is rather conspicuous to those on the beach or in one of the seaside hotels as waves nearly always are smashing into the rock sending white water high in the air. This modest spectacle has also earned the feature the nickname ‘The Wash’.
As the bottom falls away from Fourroura Rock the reef features form numerous small ravines and little nooks which are ideal for diver exploration. Because Fourroura Rock is an area of unpredictable and often strong currents, local dive operators usually reserve it for experienced enthusiasts only. Upon arriving at the site, the directions of the current must be judged before divers enter the water. The normal approach is from the south side and then, depending on the flow of the moment, an either clockwise or counterclockwise drift pattern is employed.
Masses of corals are found at depths up to fifty feet. Abundant lobster, crab and a full variety of fish, especially juveniles, are seen everywhere. The currents have resulted in the corals spreading laterally providing widespread colourful panoramas in every direction.
One of the highlights of the dive is found at 20 feet of depth on north side moving toward Pigeon Island where divers enter a “forest” of soft coralsÂ up to 15 feet tall. Besides the schools of fish, turtles, Southern Rays, Tarpon, Moray Eels, and Ring Morays, many other species are common around Fourroura Rock. Because of the richness of life, fishermen’s traps are nearly always present and must be left alone.
Fourroura Rock makes for an excellent night dive with a profusion of Blue Tang, Cuddlefish and Octopus activity added to the excitement. The site also has the advantage of being in close proximity to the dive operations in the north.
By now you might be thinking back to the title and, like us, wondering exactly where the name, ‘Barrel of Beef’, came from. Just what does a barrel of beef look like anyway? To see for yourself, simply contact your tour desk or give one or the local dive operators a call. The underwater beauty of St. Lucia will enhance any holiday experience.
This dive starts right at the impressive cliff of Gros Piton. It comprises a steep slope with a variety of corals species and large barrel sponges. The unusual sargassum-trigger-fish can be spotted in the deeper area here, and occasionally a large school of barracuda will take up residence. As with many of the dive sites, divers must be careful to frequently monitor their depth gauge as the slope continues for hundreds of feet. It is easy to get caught up in the beauty on display and descend to greater depths.
The waters around St Lucia boast some of the most scenic dive sites in all the Caribbean. You don’t have to take our word for it, just ask veteran divers who have traveled the world to enjoy their hobby.
Or better yet, take to the waters yourself and be immersed in a world of vivid colors and abundant aquatic life.
Given the large number of popular dive sites St Lucia features it’s not surprising that there isn’t unanimous consensus on which ranks as the most beautiful. But if you poll local dive operators, instructors and amateur enthusiasts you are likely to find Fairyland coming out on top.
Fairyland is located just off the rugged cliff face known as West Pointe south of Anse Chastanet beach and reef. West Pointe is a mile or so north of Soufriere Bay and provides a spectacular view of the Pitons loom nearby. Fairyland was named by one of the local dive instructors who describes it as having the appearance of a giant aquarium. Huge boulders covered with a rainbow of corals are back-dropped by dazzling white sand making the colours even more vibrant in contrast. The scene is punctuated with canyons that lead into the adjacent depths offering deeper water for advanced divers.
Fairyland is also known for its abundant fish populations. With the shoreline coming to a point, currents from both the north and south converge and flow seaward resulting in clear water and a concentration of nutrients to initiate an abundant food chain. The result is both bigger schools and larger individual fish than are found at most other sites. The same phenomenon also creates strong currents much of the time so Fairyland is most often undertaken as a drift dive for convenience. Dives at Fairyland are usually done between 25 and 50 feet with veterans occasionally going over the wall for greater depths and adventure.
Dive operators regularly remind their customers to bring their cameras when diving Fairyland. The ever-present school of Cravalle Jack, which numbers up to 1,000, is found no where else on the island. With each being up to 3 1/2 feet in length the school makes an impressive site. Fairyland also features many other kinds of fish as well as lobsters and stingray. The reefs are a breeding ground for octopus which lurk in cracks and crevices at every turn. Sea turtles are regularly sited as well.
Any of the island’s dive operators can be contacted for information on diving Fairyland or any other site. Immersing into the colorful and peaceful underwater world is sure to add to your holiday enjoyment. And if its Fairyland you visit, don’t forget your camera.
Patois or Creole translation for “Great House”, Grand Caille has long been known as the home for big fish. Unfortunately, few of these remain due to fishing activities, but this is still a very dramatic dive site, with massive boulders in the shallows, which blend into large reef patches in the deeper part. This dive site also boasts a wall comprising many deep-water gorgonia and sea whips. Occasionally a large barracuda will curiously observe the divers.
Jalousie is at the base of the Gros Piton mountain, just south of Jalousie Bay. The mountain slope continues to vast depth below the surface of the water. Divers can view lots of schooling fish, particularly creole-wrasse, bar jack and occasionally southern-sennet. There is a great range of coral species and sponges, and plenty of hiding place for moray eels, reef crabs, lobsters and other critters. Explore the crevices for these elusive creatures.
One of the most famous and visually stunning dive sites in St. Lucia is the Key Hole Pinnacles. The Pinnacles are located at the northern entrance to the Bay of Soufriere. The most dramatic features of the site are the four spectacular volcanic peaks which rise dramatically from the depths to within a few feet to the surface. The Pinnacles clearly resemble the famous Pitons, which are located nearby. All are grouped within a radius of 150 metres so divers can explore in and around all of the peaks.
In 1994, world famous film maker, underwater photographer and book author, Leni Riefenstahl – best known for her coverage of the 1936 Berlin Olympics and being the reputed lover of Adolph Hitler – dove the Pinnacles and described it as her favourite Caribbean dive site, remarking it was “a mystical and out of this world dive experience”. Ms Riefenstahl, who was well into her 90s at the time, has written numerous books including picture series editions about coral reefs around the world.
The craggy peaks are encrusted with a profusion of black and orange gorgonia, a full colour range of sponges, soft and hard corals giving the site a mystical feel. Diving the Pinnacles is done as a drift dive starting well east of the site with the boat following along above for safety and convenience. As divers proceed with the current they pass over an impressive field of finger coral bringing them into view of a ‘cloud’ of fish surrounding one of the Pinnacles looming ahead. Divers continue their drift encircling and weaving between the dramatic peaks. The site is popular with divers of all skill levels.
The lacy network of the nearly vertical Pinnacle walls provides shelter for trumpetfish, filefish, frogfish and seahorses.Â Â Larger fishes such as grouper, jack and snapper can also be spotted around the Pinnacles. Recently a group of adolescent manta rays were seen hanging out in the area. Whale sharks have been sighted as well. The rarely seen sunfish has been found in the area to the delight of divers adding to the magical reputation of the site.
Unfortunately, due to the nearby Soufriere River, the Pinnacles are threatened by excessive run-off sediment loads during heavy storms which are increasingly more common as global warming affects the Caribbean and the rest of the world. In 1997 marine park rangers had to use specially designed ‘underwater vacuums’ to remove the excessive silt build-up from the corals and sponges to temporarily minimize damage. Local authorities are tackling the problem but resources are limited and much more is required. If a solution to the mismanagement of the adjacent in-land water shed is not found soon the site will be lost forever.
Diving in St Lucia is still among the best in the region and a large number of visitors regularly take advantage of the offerings of the dive industry to enrich their holiday experiences. No matter what your experience in diving might be, there are many opportunities to get out and enjoy our wonderful underwater world. But please always remember, coral reefs are the most important yet easily damaged habitats in our oceans. Look but don’t touch; swim but don’t stand; take nothing but photos and memories; and leave nothing behind but bubbles.
Under the Petit Piton mountain, Malgretoute, which means “Despite Everything!” is a steep slope with large rocky outcrops, encrusted in colorful sponges and a variety of corals. Among these are the large barrel sponges and bright yellow tube sponges – peek inside these for crabs and basket stars. Because of the healthy reef and good water quality, many flamingo-tongues can be found on the sea fans in shallow water.
Located at the base of the Petit Piton, this dramatic wall falls from the surface to hundreds of feet below. Sea whips, delicate soft corals, lots of large featherduster-worms and schools of rainbow runners, make this a very colorful and picturesque location. Look out for seahorses hiding in the gorgonian forests along the wall.
Sometimes you come across a real find where you least expect it. That’s the way it was with Rosemond’s Trench, one of St. Lucia’s interesting and exciting dive sites.
Not long ago, Rosemond’s Trench lay unnoticed in an area known for numerous spectacular dive sites and shipwrecks. Rosemond’s Trench was discovered and added to the local dive site repertoire by a veteran St. Lucian dive instructor, Rosemond Clery. (For the record, Rosemond named it ‘The Gulf’ but his co-divers renamed it in his honour.)
One day, Rosemond and a few students were using electric powered dive scooters to take in during a single outing, the numerous popular dive sites located between Anse La Raye and Anse Cochon on the west coast. Given the ease of movement, Rosemond didn’t stop at the popular Anse Cochon reef as planned but glided on south to an area where no one ever seemed to dive, he assumed because it appears so rocky and shallow from a passing boat. Moving cautiously above the masses of rocks very near the shore he saw it, the trench.
Starting in less than ten feet from the rocky beach at a depth of only six feet, the trench extends some 30 feet straight out to where it intersects an equal length perpendicular trench, forming a ‘T’. At one point it is necessary to pass through a roofed tube. (Where, incidentally, Rosemond came face to face with a rather large shark on a night dive and quickly disproved the notion that divers can’t swim backwards!) The north end of the trench ends dramatically at a huge coral pinnacle which stretches toward the surface with large barrel sponges at its crown.
Nowhere more than 35 feet deep and usually without current, the site is an excellent one for beginners to dive over and intermediate divers to dive through. Because of the sheltered nature of the site, Rosemond’s Trench teams with schools of colourful fish. Numerous small varieties are always present with others such as schools of barracuda and spotted eagle rays not uncommon. Camouflaged sea horses abound against the colourful sponges while Rosemond says he nearly always found sea turtles lounging on the top of the large barrel sponges, his favourite thrill.
While in St. Lucia on holiday, consider spending a day snorkeling or diving for the enrichment of your travel experience. But remember, coral reefs are the most important yet easily damaged habitats in our oceans. Look but don’t touch; swim but don’t stand; take nothing but photos and memories; and leave nothing behind but bubbles.
(As a side-note to this story, Rosemond Clery, well-known and well-liked diver and regional boxer, was one year ago paralyzed from the waist down in a tragic accident. Forced to close his dive shop he quickly began to fight his way back. Today, Rosemond is swimming in a pool and is beginning to experience slight sensations in his legs. As a next step, he soon plans to scuba dive in the pool. Rosemond says, in the not too distant future, he will reopen his dive shop and be back in the sea again. Those who know Rosemond don’t doubt it… the turtles in Rosemond’s Trench will see him there again.)
Ever dream of flying like a bird? Well, sort of anyway. If so, St Lucia has the place for you… Superman’s Flight.
Superman’s Flight is a popular scuba diving site located beneath the sheer west face of Petit Piton and features currents that provide divers with the sensation of flying effortlessly through the water.
Superman’s Flight got its name from its role in the blockbuster movie Superman II. Approximately one-half hour into the movie, Superman sets off on an emergency mission to obtain a rare flower whose medicine is needed to save Lois Lane’s life. Superman is seen flying straight down the face of the Piton.
At the bottom the Man of Steel finds what he’s looking for amid lush greenery next to a waterfall. The waterfall scene was filmed nearby. By the way, rumor had it that the cast and crew loved St Lucia so much they were in no hurry to leave. Considering that they spent nearly six weeks at one of the magnificent hotels in the Soufriere area while filming what amounted to less than thirty seconds of footage in the final film cut it seems likely the rumor was true.
The dive site itself offers much more than just the exhilaration of flying. A great variety of reef structures, including plate coral, brain coral, soft coral and sea fans are among the 20 species providing plenty of entertaining colour.
Over 150 species of fish are also regularly seen at Superman’s Flight. Most are colorfully patterned and are found in large numbers, some in schools of nearly a 1,000. The Creole Wrasse, purple blue with yellow spots, are known for their abundance in the area. The topography also lends well to Puffer fish and Lobster, which are also consistently viewed in large numbers.
When diving Superman’s Flight, dive operators use a drift dive pattern for the enjoyment and convenience of their clients. Once divers are put into the water the boat follows the group along as they drift south with the current making for a relatively relaxing experience.
Superman’s Flight is dived in two ways. Divers can submerge to between 40 and 60 feet and stay at that depth range for the entire dive. Or for those preferring a deep dive experience, operators will initially take divers down to 100 feet and then ascend, in a multilevel profile, in stages to 70, 50 and 30 feet in accordance with the dive table requirements. Either way, the prevailing currents provide the flying experience.
The currents at Superman’s Flight are stronger than those at most other dive sites because of the local topography. Located at the western most point of Petit Piton there is a combination of the concentration of long-shore currents and the deep ocean patterns. Divers find the flying sensation to be a most enjoyable experience as they are swept along in a Superman-like position.
St Lucia has several professional certified dive operators staffed by some of the most experienced instructors in the entire Caribbean. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced diver, an underwater trek can add much to your island holiday fun. Hotel tour desks or the various tourist information centres will provide more details about the locations of the various scuba and snorkeling operations. Just call and say, “I want to fly like Superman.” They’ll know what you mean.
The “Devil’s Hole” is a fascinating location. At 40 to 60 feet, there is a steep slope with large barrel sponges and well-developed coral heads, with schools of chromis and grunts in abundance. The shallower section at 20 to 30 feet offers an intricate maze of channels around large boulders covered in a profusion of coral and sponges. This is a great spot to find gold spotted eels and spotted drums. If one’s lucky, one might be able to spot the rare sunfish or a hawksbill turtle.
This crescent-shaped reef to the north of Anse Chastanet bay is a secret tip not just for macro photographers. It drops quickly from a plateau area at around 40 feet to well over 150 feet. From the spectacular pillar coral and barrel sponges in the shallows to the deeper soft corals and ledges, this reef offers a wide range of exciting marine life.
The occasional turtle has been known to visit, but even if not in evidence, there are plenty of other creatures, like garden eel, gold spotted snake eel, flying gunard, peacock flounder, scorpion-fish, queen angel fish, seahorses and the remains of an old Porsche, which make this dive exceptional. Since the inception of the SMMA, the schools of mahogany snapper and schoolmaster have also returned.
The Exhilaration of Night Diving… and you might get to see “The Thing”!
The Thing? Indeed. The Thing is one of St Lucia’s most fascinating organisms and most people – locals or tourists – have never even heard of it. The Thing, known for its magnificent glittering colours, it is up to 15 feet long, has tentacles around its head and is only seen at night. Curious? More about this mysterious creature later.
For veteran divers as well as new comers to the sport, night diving is a thrill that most don’t want to miss. At night, divers find that most of the aspects of venturing under the sea which lure them back time and time again – the calm, colours and interesting sea life – are more enhanced than in the crystal blue waters of the day. And while safety is a more important concern on night dives, local dive operators are very experienced in making the activity as secure as day diving.
Most local night diving is done from the beach in relatively shallow waters that are very familiar. If you don’t bring your own, all necessary equipment, including underwater light systems, is available. You can be assured that local dive operators adhere to the strictest safety standards.
For one thing, given the abundance of nocturnal marine organisms, it is not necessary to venture to the more exotic deeper dive sites. Also, diving at night is less strenuous since it usually involves covering much less reef area since there is a concentration of things to see nearly everywhere.
Perhaps the most important considerations in night diving is being very comfortable with your buoyancy and equipment. This is to avoid accidental contact with the reefs, which will cause damage. Given the restricted light conditions and the thrill of the experience, divers tend to get in too close. Remember, when diving don’t touch, don’t take anything but pictures and don’t leave anything but bubbles.
First time night divers are always surprised at how much more vivid the reef and fish colours are. They are more accurate as well as sunlight dramatically alters the how we see them.
Among the organisms active at night you will see bristle stars, octopus, a variety of lobster and squid, flying gurnards, electric rays and snake eels, most of which are rarely seen during the day. Also, many corals feed at night so they will have their polyps out making their appearance markedly different than during the day. A variety of other organisms will also entertain. Underwater night photography and videography is preferable to many veteran divers so don’t hesitate to take along a camera.
And what The Thing? Night divers in St Lucia have long noticed this colourful creature as it glittered in their dive lights momentarily before it used its amazing quickness to disappear into the safety of a bottom hole or nook in the reef. Because of the quickness, The Thing was rarely photographed. A few years back an experienced nature photographer who was here on assignment for Skin Diver magazine surprised his diving companions by snatching one with his bare hand – an act which had never been done since its dangers were not known. The Thing was taken ashore and examined where its general identification was made as an unknown and harmless species of segmented worm.
A little luck is involved in seeing The Thing on a local night dive. Veterans estimate they see one every third or fourth dive. But those odds aren’t bad so why not give it a chance? Even without sighting The Thing the exhilaration of night diving is sure to provide a most enjoyable experience.
To many scuba enthusiasts, there’s nothing quite like the sensation they get when doing a wreck dive. Most of us grew up on books, stories and movies which dangled the possibility of finding untold fortune on an undiscovered sunken pirate ship.
But, of course, most wrecks don’t hold fame and wealth but are nonetheless a source of excitement and mystery for the sport diver. And each ship, no matter what its age, has a history and personality all its own.
The Caribbean is strewn with wrecks but the vast majority aren’t found in locations that present ideal diving conditions for the average recreational diver on holiday. St. Lucia is lucky to boast two wrecks which are very popular with visiting divers. Both are also found in convenient locations for the local dive industry.
The first, the Lesleen M, is known as a relatively easy wreck dive. Found in the Bay of Anse Cochon, the Lesleen M, a 165 foot freighter, was sunk by the Department of Fisheries in 1986 to serve as an artificial reef. The wreck is covered in hard and soft corals, sponges and hydroids and serves as an excellent habitat for juvenile fish such as Queen and French Angel Fishes. Hawksbill Turtles are also commonly seen around the wreck as are Barracuda. The Lesleen M sits on an even keel on the sandy bottom at 65 feet with its top deck at 30 feet in depth. Trained wreck divers do explore inside in various compartments including the engine room but it is not recommended for novices.
The second wreck, the Japanese dredger Daini Koyomaru (which means boat number 2), was sunk in the south end of Anse Cochon in 1996. At 16,000 tons, 244 feet in length and 80 feet in height, the Daini Koyomaru is an imposing site in its watery grave. The ship sits at a maximum dive depth of dive 108 feet. When it was sunk the vessel landed on its side making it a challenging wall dive as well as a mysterious wreck dive.
Eels and Barracuda, which tagged along as the ship was towed to its resting site from Vieux Fort in the island’s south, are found in around the wreck in abundance. The Daini Koyomaru is recommended for experienced divers only due to the depth and strong currents found in the area.
While on holiday in St. Lucia, consider diving as an enjoyable, challenging and memorable activity. Local dive operations, all fully certified and experienced, have everything you need in the way of equipment. Beginner courses and refresher courses for those with some experience will have you enjoying the colourful undersea world in no time. And if you want a special sensation, the wreck of the Lesleen M awaits.